Ty Balascio and his grassroots group Seeds of Liberty achieved the near impossible: they collected and submitted the signatures of more than 2,100 people in the Monroe community -- nearly two-thirds of active voters -- for Monroe Initiative No. 1, "Let The Voters Decide On Automatic Ticketing Cameras In Monroe." It is the first initiative in city history to make it over the extraordinarily high hurdle of qualifying. Amazingly, more citizens signed initiative petitions than voted for the mayor or any member of the city council.
In response to the county auditor's confirmation on Friday that the initiative was officially certified, The Herald reported that Mayor Robert Zimmerman has asked for an executive session with the City Council Tuesday night to discuss the initiative. City officials say the discussion can occur behind closed doors because it involves legal matters.
Before the mayor and City Council "lawyer up" and sue their own citizens, they should consider what Mukilteo's officials did (and the courts approved).
Faced with an identical initiative and also a record number of voter signatures from its community, Mukilteo's mayor and City Council unanimously approved Resolution No. 2010-22, putting the initiative on the November ballot for a public vote. The mayor and City Council sided with the citizens and not the for-profit, out-of-state red-light camera company. They followed the law (RCW 35.17.260 requires certified initiatives to be approved by the council or put up for a public vote) and won the respect and appreciation of Mukilteo's citizens.
Monroe's officials can and should follow in Mukilteo's footsteps and adopt a resolution just like theirs.
In response to Mukilteo's decision to let the people vote, the red-light camera company sued the city. Mukilteo defended its decision writing in its legal brief: "The Mukilteo City Council desires to hear from its electorate." They concluded: "... the number of signatures on the petition for the subject initiative indicated the citizens' desire to be heard. The only controversy here is that Plaintiff desires to deny voters the chance to be heard." The plaintiff was the red-light camera company.
Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Michael Downes wasted no time and sided with the city: "This is a unique situation where citizens want to vote but also the city council, the duly elected representatives, also want to hear from the electorate." He went on: "A lawsuit at this point is premature. I don't know how voters are going to vote on this but I see no harm in letting them vote. If it is approved, plaintiffs or those with interest in this issue can file a legal challenge afterwards, but again, I see no harm in having this proceed."
The red-light camera company, very upset with the ruling, appealed, asking the state Supreme Court for an emergency stay to keep the initiative off the ballot. The high court sided with Judge Downes and refused to prevent the people from voting. Thanks to that unanimous vote for Resolution 2010-22 by Mukilteo's mayor and City Council, there was a vote last November on the initiative.
Mukilteo's city officials, some of whom supported the ticketing cameras, blazed a trail of respect for its citizenry. And the courts, both the lower court and high court, backed them up every step of the way. It's a trail that Monroe's city officials can and should follow.
Can Monroe's city officials sue their own citizens to try to stop Monroe Initiative No. 1? Sure they can. But they don't have to. They have a choice: they can follow Mukilteo's example and respect the citizens' right to initiative and right to vote or they can follow the red-light camera company's instructions and sue Monroe's citizens.
It's important for everyone to know that none of Monroe's current officials brought automatic ticketing cameras to the city -- it was their predecessors that did it.
Monroe's local citizens have done everything required of them to earn their right to decide this issue for themselves. We hope Monroe's officials respect them enough not to sue them for it. If they don't, Monroe's citizens will rightly ask: "Why didn't you let the voters decide like Mukilteo's officials did and the courts approved?"
Tim Eyman served as an adviser to Ty Balascio and Seeds of Liberty on Monroe Initiative No. 1. Balascio can be reached at 425-610-8154 or email@example.com. For more information, visit www.BanCams.com/Monroe.
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